Want a avoid a parking ticket? Don't park in these Hunter streets

RANGER DANGER: A Newcastle City Council parking officer issues an infringement notice in Wharf Road, one of the region's parking fine hot spots. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
RANGER DANGER: A Newcastle City Council parking officer issues an infringement notice in Wharf Road, one of the region's parking fine hot spots. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

THEY are among of the busiest streets in the heart of Newcastle and now revealed as the most lucrative in the Hunter when it comes to parking fines.

For the first time, the Newcastle Herald can reveal the region's most-fined streets generating almost $8 million in the past two financial years from 57,522 infringement notices.

This equates to $11,035 each day from the parking officers' favourite haunts that range from Newcastle CBD, to Lake Macquarie, Cessnock and Port Stephens.

Documents obtained under freedom of information laws show that Newcastle CBD's Hunter and King streets and Wright Lane are the region's worst when it comes to parking fines.

In the past two financial years the three streets have gouged more than $1.5 million from motorists after 13,721 parking fines were issued.

That equates to motorists who park in the three streets coughing up more than $2000 each day in parking fines.

The only significant change over the past two financial years was the ranking of the three money-spinner locations.  

Hunter Street topped the list in 2016-17 with 3307 fines issued worth $374,042, followed by Wright Lane and then King Street.

But with much of Hunter Street closed for light rail construction last financial year, it slipped to second place behind King St and Wright Lane came in third.

The three streets added $1.35 million to Newcastle City Council coffers over the past two financial years and NSW Police wrote $26,928 worth of tickets.

Wright Lane was a huge money spinner for the Hunter Development Corporation, netting it $455,448.

Newcastle City Council chief executive officer Jeremy Bath said it was no surprise that Newcastle CBD consistently topped the list because it was the only commercial centre in the region with parking meters.

Mr Bath said parking officers were rostered to patrol areas, not individual streets.

“Parking enforcement exists to ensure car spaces are turned over, which is exactly what the CBD requires to attract people to the area,” he said. 

“To be frank, compliance with parking rules only exists when drivers know parking officers are patrolling. 

“That's not a criticism of local drivers, just an acknowledgement that people will always try to get away with parking too long if they know they won't be issued a ticket.”

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced in June that the government would cut a range of the parking fines it issues – about 10 per cent of the state total – from a minimum of $110 to $80 and would give councils the freedom to follow suit.

“Councils have had it too good for too long, and they’ve been, in my view, in a number of cases using fines as cash cows and blaming the state government,” Mr Perrottet said. 

“So what I’m saying to councils, and I say this to Newcastle City Council, cut your fines.”  

But Mr Bath said council had no intention of bowing to state government pressure.

Parking fines are forecast to contribute $3.5 million to council's 2018-19 budget.

The council made $7.644 million in parking revenue in 2016-17, up $772,000 on the previous year, and $3.672 million in parking fines, up from $2.877 million.

Mr Bath said cutting fines would be counterproductive given the disruption caused by building projects in the city.

He said patrols cover the entire local government area and are allocated on a needs basis, rather than focusing on particular areas. 

“The volume of parking vehicles the CBD receives, compared to other areas, dictates that the most patrolled areas are always going to be those in the CBD,” he said.

According to the data from the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, there were 171 locations across the Hunter where at least 42 parking fines were issued in one street last financial year, this increased from 141 the year before.

Of the 171 locations, 125 of them were in the Newcastle local government area.

The data does not include hospitals or the University of Newcastle, that are known parking fine hot spots. 

Ben Vickers, who commutes from Maitland to Newcastle for work, said parking fines were “nothing but a cash grab” for councils.

The Bolwarra resident said it would take “far too long” to catch public transport to work each day. 

“There just aren’t enough parking spots available in the inner city and the extra residential developments and more university students coming into town is going to make that worse,” he said.

“Things are extremely tight now. I’m really just hoping once the light rail is finished that there isn’t such a high demand for parking spots.”

The Herald reported earlier this month that Newcastle’s parking squeeze will tighten further, with the University of Newcastle proposing to create only a dozen new parking spaces at its new Honeysuckle campus development that will attract up to 6500 students and staff when complete.

Controversy erupted four years ago when the university created five parking spaces for its NeWSpace building, which caters for about 3000 students at peak times.

Planning documents presently on public exhibition for the state significant development reveal a similar strategy has been adopted for the Honeysuckle campus.

The top ten street hit list for the 2016-17 financial year were all in Newcastle, but last financial year Myles Ave, Warners Bay, came in at number six, up from 18 the year before. 

A blitz on parking around Warners Bay High School by Lake Macquarie City Council saw the number of fines issued and revenue collected in Myles Ave more than double from 127 to 275 and $41,203 to $88,915.

NOT BUDGING: Newcastle City Council's chief executive officer Jeremy Bath. Picture: Simone De Peak

NOT BUDGING: Newcastle City Council's chief executive officer Jeremy Bath. Picture: Simone De Peak

A council spokeswoman said more parking rangers had been employed to allow for more “comprehensive coverage” across the local government area and a “stronger focus on areas of high risk and low compliance”.

She said school zones and town centres were being targeted. 

“Council notifies schools if there is to be an increased ranger presence in their area for compliance monitoring,” she said.

“Council has consulted Warners Bay High over the high number of parking infringements in Myles Avenue.”  

There was also a large increase in fines issued on the Pacific Highway, Charlestown, jumping from 104 to 174, equating in a revenue increase from $26,456 to $42,513.

“Parking enforcement is an essential component of parking management that encourages the equitable turnover of parking spaces to ensure customers and visitors have access to parking within our town centres,” the spokeswoman said.

“Enforcement also keeps traffic and public transport flowing on key arterial roads, maintains access to private property, and increases the safety for all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians.”

Cessnock's main street, Vincent St, jumped from 45 on the list in 2016-17 with 115 fines issued valued at $22,194, to 13 last financial year with 212 fines valued at $48,800.

A council spokeswoman said increased parking patrols were in response to complaints lodged by businesses. She said timed parking was designed to ensure availability of parking for motorists.

“Council will continue to patrol and issue infringement notices for vehicles that breach the Australian road rules,” she said.

“This education and enforcement allows everyone a fair chance to shop in the CBD. Increased parking turnover assists local businesses with more people coming into the CBD.”

Parking tensions across the Newcastle’s inner city are increasing as many commuters struggle to adjust to the loss of hundreds of parking spots. The Herald reported earlier this year that Newcastle’s Honeysuckle businesses recorded a sharp fall in trade when the temporary 250-space Lee Wharf car park closed in April.

The city lost 386 parking spaces in January when the former David Jones car park in King Street shut for the start of construction work on Iris Capital’s mall redevelopment, and the 270-space open-air car park at the west end of Honeysuckle Drive is only temporary.

The cumulative effect of these and other changes will be the loss of 1250 parking spots, although both Honeysuckle car parks were only ever temporary additions to the city’s parking stock. In an effort to ease the parking strain, the council and HDC launched a successful park-and-ride scheme from Broadmeadow last year.

Transport for NSW’s 2016 review of environmental factors for the light rail project said the tram line would cut 267 spaces from Hunter and Scott streets and 75 at the Wickham interchange.

This story Revealed: the Hunter’s worst streets for parking fines first appeared on Newcastle Herald.